10 Best Sand For Sandblasting

As a general rule, not every sand can be used for sandblasting. Selecting appropriate sand to be used as a sandblasting media requires putting into consideration the nature of the material surface to be worked on, as well as the type and weight of the contamination to be flushed off the surface. 

This article will be focused on the ten best sand media for sandblasting, their application, and the materials they can be used on.

10 Best Sand For Sandblasting

There are varieties of sand that can be used for sandblasting which of course would still give a very nice output after an operation. 

However, these sand/media have an advantage over themselves due to their characteristic features as well as the materials they can be used on.

Below are the 10 best sand media for sandblasting with no definite order –

1. Glass Beads

Glass beads as a sandblast media can be categorized as one of the safe media as compared to some other media. It can serve as a better option to silica sand which has been recently linked to some health hazards which includes silicosis

  • Application

It is perfect for cleaning and removing certain coatings like paint, weld slag, and rust from material surfaces. It cleanses the surfaces leaving little or no blast profile. They can be used in blast cabinets

  • Most used surfaces

It is usually used in the surface of materials like Stainless steel, brass, and bronze

  • Grit size

Coarse to super fine

  • Recyclability 

Its recyclability is high, as can be reused 4 to 6 times before they are disposed of

  • Best use

Glass beads are best used for producing a smooth and bright finish on a surface. 

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2. Crushed glass grit

Crushed glass grit is a sandblasting made from 100% recycled glass. It is irregular in shape and produces more of a pattern on the surface on which it is applied 

  • Application

It is perfect for removing coatings such as paint and rust from surfaces to provide a pattern-like surface to aid the clinging of new painting to be applied. It is effective in both dry and wet blasting. 

  • Most used surfaces

It is suitable to be used on a variety of materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, concrete, brick as well as wood. 

  • Grit size

Coarse to Extra fine

  • Recyclability

Crushed glass grit is not recyclable. It is soft compared to other media which makes it usually only useful for one-time use. 

  • Best use

It is best used for cleaning and removal of surface contamination in tanks and pipelines, for stripping bridges, as well as for marine use due to its environmentally friendly characteristic which makes it safe for marine life. 

3. Garnet

Garnet is that sandblasting media that can simply be described as “Clean and Fast”. It is an industrially made mineral obtained either from Almandite or Andradite deposits. Garnet when used creates a surface virtually free of embedment. 

  • Application

Its application cuts across a wide area ranging from industrial use to abrasive and cutting applications. Some of its applications include Rust removal, surface cleaning, waterjet cutting, Hydroblast cleaning, coating prep, etc. 

  • Most used surfaces

It is suitable to be used on Aluminum and fiberglass structures, bridges, docks, shipyards, as well as hanger decks.

  • Grit size

Very coarse to Fine

  • Recyclability

It is recyclable and can be reused a couple of times before losing its cleaning characteristic. 

  • Best use

It is best used for coating adhesion, and also for preparing a surface for industrial painting 

4. Steel Shot

Steel shot is one of the most common metallic abrasives used in sandblasting operations. It is sometimes mixed up with steel grit, but know that they are two different media that work differently. It is spherical, thereby producing a smooth and clean surface after blasting.

  • Application

It applies to blasting operations such as cleaning, polishing, shot peening, as well as for surface preparation 

  • Most used surfaces

It is mainly used on metal surfaces, to expel contaminations and provide a smooth surface

  • Grit size

Medium to ultra fine

  • Recyclability

Its recyclability is very high. Due to its durability, it can be used for a very long time on different operations before losing its cleaning characteristic feature. 

  • Best use

It is best used for polishing and smoothing surfaces

5. Steel Grit

This is similar to steel shots in durability and chemical composition, however, the difference between the two is the shape. While steel shots are rounded and give a smooth result, steel grits on the other hand have sharp edges which makes them useful when a rough surface finish is required in a material

  • Application

This is used on fabricated parts and ferrous castings where rough finishing is required to carry out other operations on them

  • Most used surfaces

It is mainly used on metal materials. 

  • Grit size

Super coarse to Medium

  • Recyclability

Due to its high durability, it is highly recyclable and can be reused multiple times

  • Best use

It is best used for operations that involve aggressive cleaning, as well as fast stripping

6. Corn Cob

This is more like a softer and environmentally friendly blasting media compared to the steel, aluminum, and plastic types. Corn cub is employed for cleaning delicate materials particularly those that may incur damages if blasted using durable blasting media. 

  • Application

It is applicable for cleaning and polishing surfaces that are prone to damage when hit with hard materials. It is also employed in the final stage of the tumbling process to enhance the appearance of finished products. 

  • Most used surfaces

It is employed on delicate materials like bricks, glass, and wood. It is also used for aluminum, gold, and silver.

  • Grit size

Extra coarse to Extra Fine

  • Recyclability

It has very low or no recyclable property. Can only be used once, at most twice

  • Best use

It is best and commonly used on soft surfaces like wood for cleaning and stripping

7. Walnut Shell

Walnut shell is a soft abrasive which is also often used in place of high ductile blasting media like steel shot, steel grit, etc. for finishing operation particularly on surfaces that tend to incur damages if blasted with media of very high durability. It aids the removal of surface contaminations and coating without posing a threat to the substrate. 

  • Application

Due to its lightweight, coupled with its softness and angular design, it is suitable for carrying out operations like cleaning, deburring, as well as stripping of materials such as plastics, wood, etc. 

  • Most used surfaces

Materials on which walnut shells can work effectively include; plastics, wood, fiberglass, aluminum, as well as various composite materials. 

  • Grit size

Extra coarse to extra Fine 

  • Recyclability

It has a very low to no recyclability characteristic. 

  • Best use

It is best used for slightly aggressive stripping without posing a threat of damage

8. Aluminum oxide

Aluminum oxide is a popularly used abrasive employed for etching and finishing. There are varieties of materials that serve the same purpose, but aluminum oxide is considered a better option due to its aggressive nature and is suitable for use on a wide range of material surfaces. 

  • Application

Its use is perfect for vast operation such as Abrasive Blasting, surface preparation, surface finishing, removal of paint/rust, removal of solder/weld, deburring, as well as preconditioning, and cleaning of surfaces

  • Most used surfaces

It is effective to be used on vast materials like Metals, plastics, and composites

  • Grit size

Very coarse to extra Fine

  • Recyclability

It is highly recyclable, can be reused multiple times and operations till it deteriorates, and can no longer perform effectively 

  • Best use

It is best put into use for etching and profiling of surfaces

9. Baking soda

This is a non-abrasive blasting media. It is useful for removing very tough coating on materials that are very delicate and are prone to damage if a traditional sandblasting media is employed on them. This media is soluble in water and provides a one-step deep cleaning to materials without causing damage to the material surface. 

  • Application

It is effective in the removal of rust, coatings, paints, graffiti, stains, molds, odors, oil, grease, and other contaminants from the material surface. 

  • Most used surfaces

It is employed on a very wide range of materials which include; metal, wood, plastics, fiberglass, aluminum, concrete, alloys, PVC, etc. 

  • Grit size

Coarse to extra fine

  • Recyclability

Baking soda is not recyclable. It is a friable material, which means that when it gets in contact with a surface, it explodes into small particles leaving behind fine dust which cannot be used for any other blasting operation 

  • Best use

It is best used for cleaning tools, machine parts, turbines, airplane parts, conveyors, engines, etc. 

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10. Silicon Carbide

This is categorized as the hardest abrasive material employed in blasting operations. It is an angular-shaped grain having sharp cutting edges. A shorter blast time is required when using silicon carbide compared to other media due to its extra hardness

  • Application

It is employed for carving, engraving, etching on material surfaces. It is also applicable for micro-blasting

  • Most used surfaces

It is effective on all hard material surface like metal, stone, concrete, as well as glass

  • Grit size

Very coarse to extra fine

  • Recyclability

It is highly recyclable. It can be reused multiple time to operate on different materials

  • Best use

It is best used to etch, engrave and carve into metals, rocks, and glass. It is also suitable for preparing surfaces for high-performance coatings. 

What Is The Best Sand For Sandblasting Rust?

Choosing the best blasting media to expel rust is mainly dependent on the weight of the rust on the surface, but as an easy guide, it is best to start gently and then step up if need be. 

Using a walnut shell for lightweight rust is advisable as it is easily accessible and environmentally friendly. However, if the rust is heavy then Aluminum oxide is another soft way to go. 

Silicon carbide is yet another option to consider, however, it is more expensive compared to aluminum oxide. 

How To Choose Sand For Sandblasting?

Choosing sand for sandblasting requires putting into consideration some factors. A guide to selecting the best media is as follows

1. Consider starting with a soft medium if you are unsure about the characteristic features of the surface you are working on. You can start with a walnut shell or a corn cob due to their soft nature and environmental friendliness

2. Take a glass bead as a medium. Due to the rounded physical feature of glass beads, it gives a soft, smooth finish and can be reused up to 30 times

3. Consider plastic beads when working on automotive parts. Plastic beads produce a high stripping rate without posing any damage threat to the material

4. You can also consider using aluminum oxide due to its gentle finish, however, you need to make provision for proper disposal after use to avoid an environmental hazard

5. Choose silicon carbide if you are dealing with a very hard surface as silicon carbide is the hardest medium as far as sandblasting is involved.

Can I Use Any Sand For Sandblasting?

No. Using any abrasive which has more than 1% silica is dangerous. The silica particles that go into the air as a result of the blasting can cause severe respiratory diseases such as silicosis. As such it is not allowed to use just any sand

Can regular sand be used for sandblasting?

No, regular sand contains more than 1% silica which makes it dangerous to health. 

Can you reuse sand after sandblasting?

Sand cannot be reused after sandblasting, however, it can be used for other purposes like cement mixture, as well as for concrete.